Ramadan 2018: Post #5 – Community Collaboration

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One of my favourite things about Ramadan is the sense of community that can be felt. Greater than your weekly lift at Jummah but not quite as magnificent as Hajj, connecting with others during Ramadan is a beautiful annual tradition.

Enjoin Good, a local grassroots organization has been active since 2007. Their two main projects are the Orphan Sponsorship Program and the Food Hamper Project. They use the latter to provide basic food items and necessities for families in need. They run multiple drives a year and provide volunteers with the opportunity to contribute to various stages including donating money, going grocery shopping, packaging the groceries and delivering the food hampers.

Their most recent drive served roughly 180 families and took place the weekend before Ramadan started. It was a great chance for people, including families with young children, to volunteer together to help ensure that struggling local families can also break fast with hearty meals. Since many organizations require volunteers to be at least twelve years of age, this was a great avenue to do it as a family. Even Y, who was just shy of his first birthday at the time, joined us!

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Many parents opt to bring their babies and children with them in the cars during the delivery part, but the packaging step is also a great way for little leaders to get involved, assuming the children are accompanied by an adult for supervision purposes.

H had the chance to participate in this stage, and now that she’s older, she can remember the experience and also make observations. Not only did she love using her “strong muscles” to move items, but she delighted at the connections she made with older children who looked out for her and played big sister/brother roles (the organizers did a great job assigning older children to assist younger ones).

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She was mesmerized and inspired by her uncle who was one of the key organizers in making this happen. Later that night she confided in me that she wanted to be a leader, just like her uncle. She also wanted to have a laptop like him to do “very important work” although she admitted that she wasn’t quite sure what this very important work was.

Naturally, as a parent I wanted to foster this sense of self. I asked her if she wanted to be a leader during an upcoming play date we would be hosting in Ramadan, and she enthusiastically agreed.

This year, a fellow mother from a Mom’s group I’m a part of had a wonderful idea. She proposed taking turns hosting play dates during Ramadan so that our children could get excited about the month and we could get some time to engage in some remembrance and reflection. This sacred time is one that many mothers of young children are left craving, and yes, while caring for our families and helping raise the next generation also qualify as acts of worship we will be rewarded for, nothing compares to having ten uninterrupted minutes to connect with the Book of God without having to worry about everything else that needs to get done.

H is at an age now where I realize how important it is to spend time with other Muslim families since she doesn’t interact with any in her day-to-day life. Even as a Muslim, Islam and what a Muslim lifestyle looks like still needs to be normalized for her.  I want to broaden her perspective of who can be Muslim- how Muslims dress and look, what kinds of names they have and where we see them. I thought that connecting with the moms in this group would help with that.

In her capacity as leader, H decided that it could be a dress-up play date (this was an idea she had even when we were initially planning for Ramadan) but she was quick to add that “they [my friends] don’t have to dress up if they don’t want to.” Not to say that she wasn’t delighted when Batman showed up. She decided she wanted to make Ramadan cards during the play date and the night before our play date, she made an example card. She was asking me how to spell Ramadan and then quickly realized it was already written on the banner. “That’s okay mom, I can do it” she told me. I was so impressed by her resourcefulness.

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The next day our home was filled with 6 adults and 12 children (4 of which were babies). H started off her explanation by saying, “I’m the leader so make a card and ask me if you need help.”

Given that the purpose of these play dates was to give moms some downtime to reconnect with Ramadan, we made the cards an open-ended process, meaning there was no template they needed to follow. There was a variety of stickers/shapes that could be glued along with some other basic supplies so children could make unique pieces.

The results were gorgeous!

These two events were a wonderful way to welcome Ramadan in collaboration with other families. As a stay-at-home-mom who misses regular adult interactions, this was not only a great learning opportunity for my kids, but a great way for me to connect with others at the start of Ramadan. May God accept everyone’s efforts and continue to allow all of us to serve others.

For more information on the Food Hamper Project, or to get involved, check out the website or Facebook page. Donations can be made there ahead of their next drive on June 10, just in time for Eid.

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Ramadan 2016- Post #6: Sadaqa Jar

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Sadaqa is an Islamic concept which basically means to give charity (voluntarily).

About a year ago, I first read my daughter a book called “Jameela’s Great Idea” (review can be found here). My daughter loved this book and we’ve rotated it in a few times over the past year. When I was carefully choosing the books I wanted to add to her bookshelf during Ramadan, this book was a natural choice. The book is about a little girl who regularly goes to the Mosque with her father and upon noticing him deposit money in a “little brown box” asks him what that is all about. The book follows her as she brainstorms ways to raise money so that she can give sadaqa too.

What I decided to do with my daughter during Ramadan was give her simple art materials to create her own “sadaqa jar” (a glass jar*, paint, paint brush, glitter).  We talked about the idea of collecting money, ways she could collect money and what she would do with it after. Keep in mind she was 2.5 years old and it was a very simple process (essentially asking family if they would like to donate money to her jar so she could share it). While we’ve been toying with the idea of a piggy bank for her, I liked the idea that the first time she was going to save money, it was going to be for charity.

*Some people are weary of letting toddlers handle glass, but I believe that children should be entrusted with using authentic materials.

My daughter was excited to paint her jar. She picked two shades of blue paint. But of course, painting the jar wasn’t enough for her.I passed her some recycled materials but she shortly moved onto something more exciting; she decided to paint both her arms. I have to admit, my inner parent wanted to rush in and give her paper, but I know that sensory input is valuable for children. Besides, it wasn’t anything a good wash couldn’t take care of. So I sat back, made a video and marveled at the curiosity and focus of my little smurf.

 

She added some red and purple glitter to her jar and once it was dry, I made a simple top with a slit out of a styrofoam plate (we used a mason jar which worked really well for this). For the next few weeks, she collected coins from her Papa, grandparents and aunts.

Near the end of Ramadan, we drove to the Mosque and after some hunting (there was no donation box on the women’s side…sigh), we found one in the men’s lobby. H excitedly deposited her coins and we were on our way.

As I mentioned, this was the process we followed as part of our Ramadan Calendar, tailored to my then 2.5 year old. Below are some adjustments that can be made to better meet the developmental needs of older children.

Modifications for older children

  1. Learn about your local currency – Now that my daughter is three, she is interested and better able to differentiate between the various coins and learn about their value. Coins collected can be used not only to learn new terminology (In Canada, we have the penny, nickel, dime, quarter, loonie, toonie) but these coins can be used in other mathematical and numerical learning such as numerical value, patterning, sorting, weighing etc.
  2. Allow children to choose their own sadaqa recipient – For younger children, a generic sadaqa box at the mosque works splendidly, but with the array of charitable organizations in existence, it might be more meaningful for your child to research and pick a cause that is dear to their heart, whether it is building a well, contributing to the education of a child abroad or helping with the local pet shelter.
  3. Ask children to create a plan about how they will earn/raise money – Have children consider the materials and resources needed to raise money and critically evaluate what will be the best approach. Perhaps this will be a great opportunity for their inner entrepreneur to shine! Older children may choose to take on additional jobs or engage in classic fundraising initiatives like bake sales to help raise funds for their cause. Work with your child to adjust the plan so that it is suitable for your scope and lifestyle.
  4. Nurture their desire to help in a sustainable way – Abu Huraira reported: The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said, “Take up good deeds only as much as you are able, for the best deeds are those done regularly even if they are few.” Your family may choose to make this sadaqa initiative an annual tradition or better yet an ongoing project.
  5. Remind children of the other forms of sadaqa – While monetary giving is commendable, it is not always possible or what is most required. Remind children of the words of the Prophet Muhammad peace be upon him who told us that even a smile is sadaqa. As a family, brainstorm other ways of giving sadaqa and possibly undertake one of these ways as a family initiative. Some suggestions include volunteering time, gardening, conversing with the elderly in your community, shoveling snow for neighbours with limited mobility, sharing meals and toys and speaking what is good and true.